My novice classmate, sister, and friend Chero reminded me that yesterday was the 11th anniversary of our first profession of vows.
So much had happened since then: four years of social justice ministry, two and a half years of graduate school, and now four and a half years of community ministry on the leadership team. Many moves. And so much in between!
This morning, as I walked down the stairs in my pajamas to get my morning coffee, I remembered that today is the 3rd anniversary of the fire at St. Michael Villa, our regional center where I happen to live. While we are back in our corner of the house that received less smoke damage, we are anxiously anticipating the reopening of the main house soon. Lots of losses and discoveries and moves to temporary housing since waking up to a very real fire alarm.
Both memories lead me to give thanks for the gifts of community and belonging.
The past eleven years have been filled with so much love in action.
Prayers, hopes, and dreams shared.
Challenges and disasters navigated together.
Waiting in joyful hope, and maybe a bit of impatience thrown in for good measure.
Invitations and opportunities.
Roadblocks and detours.
Growing together as community for mission.
Finding my voice as a writer and discovering bit by bit my role as a leader.
It is the big moments and the little ones that make up this adventure called life, and God is always in the mix if we care to look.
Periodically on Fridays I will share some words of wisdom from the founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. Known in religion as Mother Francis Clare, Margaret Anna Cusack was a prolific writer in her day. She wrote lives of the saints, spiritual works, histories, and social reform. I find great inspiration in her life’s word and work. For example, this simple desire which she articulated at some point in her life resonates with the simplest desire in my own heart as a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace.
My desire to live the life of a sister, to give my life to God, and to work for his poor – this seemed to me the only object worth existing for.
My experience of God is often one of surprise. It seems that when I open my heart, God finds a way in, often catching me off guard. It was so lovely to read this experience described in the words of Pope Francis this weekend at the beatification of Paul VI:
“This is the perennial newness to be discovered each day, and it requires mastering the fear which we often feel at God’s surprises.
God is not afraid of new things! That is why he is continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways. He renews us: he constantly makes us “new”. A Christian who lives the Gospel is “God’s newness” in the Church and in the world. How much God loves this “newness”! …
Here is where our true strength is found; here is the leaven which makes it grow and the salt which gives flavor to all our efforts to combat the prevalent pessimism which the world proposes to us. Here too is where our hope is found, for when we put our hope in God we are neither fleeing from reality nor seeking an alibi: instead, we are striving to render to God what is God’s. That is why we Christians look to the future, God’s future. It is so that we can live this life to the fullest – with our feet firmly planted on the ground – and respond courageously to whatever new challenges come our way.”
Truth be told, not only am I surprised by God, I often experience God as a someone with a pretty wicked sense of humor. And sometimes as a trickster too! As in, playful with a good sense of humor and not afraid to call my bluff or play the sneaky Holy Spirit card, calling me to something new before I even know really where I am going.
The God of surprises led me back to my Catholic faith, through twists and turns and friends, after a ten years as a strident “ex Catholic.”
God playfully led me to discover my passion for peace through justice, even in the midst of some experiences of pain and grief.
Another surprising God moment (in an email from my pastor) made me consider that maybe, quite possibly, I had a vocation to religious life
And then God surprised me by guiding me to a community of fun, faithful, and fearless women who seek to live peace through justice in their daily lives. God led me “home,” to a community of women I have come to love, despite age gaps, diminismhment, or fears, a place where I can be my best me.
And then, God surprised me with a group of religious life age peers across congregations who make me laugh, keep me sane, and make me love my community even more and believe with all my heart in the (surprising) future God has in store for religious life.
These surprises which led me to the corner of Susan and St. Joseph are ones that keeps on giving. As Pope Francis says, God is continually surprising me, opening my heart and guiding me in unexpected ways. For real … and for that, I am so very grateful!
For about ten years I blogged about my discernment into and first years of religious life at a little virtual spot called Musings of a Discerning Woman. I originally started the blog because I had found the sharing of other people’s experiences and journeys helpful in navigating and discerning my own. As it happens, I then fell in love with the medium and discovered that I am a writer at heart!
Discernment, I have discovered, never ends. Whether it’s the big things … like the communal and personal discernment I engaged in with my community this year around being called to the ministry of congregation leadership … or the small(er) things, like how to live a good and virtuous life in the everyday choices we make, discernment is part and parcel of being a human, if we are paying attention that is.
Well, tonight I am going to have a chance to share some of my own experience and journeys of discernment in a live format, which hopefully will prove helpful to those who participate in the Discernment Chat taking place at 6PM Pacific/8PM Central/9PM Eastern at A Nun’s Life. My friend Sister Julie Vieira, IHM started blogging at A Nun’s Life about the same time I started my original blog. She of course has turned A Nun’s Life into an incredible interactive ministry for discerners and spiritual seekers. I was honored to be invited to join in the conversation tonight as their “guest nun.”
It will be a welcome and good break from thesis writing!